To the editor:
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) recently came to Berlin to hear about the lack of markets for low-grade wood.
If New Hampshire history could speak, I think it would reveal that Sen. Shaheen is actually the person that is responsible for this low-grade wood market situation in Berlin and all across the North Country, a situation that for many would have dire consequences. But history can still offer a glimpse into what actually happened.
By 1999 paper-making in Berlin was in serious trouble. The reasons are mired in global competition, a weakening U.S. dollar and rising capital costs. It was a downward forecast of what was to be the end of an industry and a way of life that had existed in New Hampshire since the late 1800s.
As a former legislator, I contacted then Gov. Shaheen to ask of her response and how hundreds of good paying jobs, tax base, low-grade wood and the future of the North Country might be saved. I was hoping her response would involve the use of state loan guarantees, workforce tax credits, innovative energy, commodity hedges and possibly the rehabilitation of the Boston & Maine and St. Lawrence & Atlantic rail lines that serviced the mills.
No response from Shaheen ever came. Instead, I was referred to DRED Commissioner George Bald, who said to the effect of “We went down to Manhattan, the CEO was a real dirt bag.” Commissioner Bald was right, Mehdi Gabayzdah (who bought the Berlin and Gorham paper operations in 1999, went bankrupt and closed them in 2001) was later sentenced for a $300 million bank and securities fraud as the economy in Berlin and the North Country savagely imploded.